VeraCrypt is a popular free and open source file encryption software that encrypts disks and partitions. It has known usability issues which limit its reach to a wider audience. One way of improving its usability is to better support user mental models by changing the functionality description. We did a Cognitive Walkthrough with usability experts to test VeraCrypt’s interface and the effectiveness of an attempt to help ease use through a mental model builder (MMB) in the form of a short instructional text. They concluded that the MMB would be helpful for users. We also conducted a user study to verify VeraCrypt’s usability and to test the MMB with users. Before the MMB, participants were asked to secure a file using VeraCrypt and none were successful. After our MMB, 4/5 participants were able to achieve at least one sub-task, with two successfully completing the entire task. However, the MMB was more successful with users with tech backgrounds, suggesting that a more detailed MMB would have been better for average users.

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Communications in Computer and Information Science
School of Computer Science

Spero, E. (Eric), Stojmenović, M. (Milica), & Biddle, R. (2019). Helping Users Secure Their Data by Supporting Mental Models of VeraCrypt. In Communications in Computer and Information Science. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-23522-2_27